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A Look at Data-Driven Decisions for Fire Depts. – Part 4

ESO Staff

As a fire department, are you effective? Are you making defensible decisions for things like staffing, operations, budget? If you answered yes, Captain with the Fayetteville (NC) Fire/Emergency Management Dept. Jason Hathcock and Wilmington (NC) Asst. Chief Frank Blackley challenge you to prove it.

In this series we will review key components to ensuring you’re a data-driven organization: 

  1. Getting Started
  2. Setting Expectations
  3. Data Standards
  4. A Different Approach to Data

In the last part of our series we will address different tactics to viewing your data. 

Go exploring: Blackley recommends examining operational data to catch opportunities to make improvements – or perhaps identify trends before they become problems. Tracking time-to-inspection completion, for example, can reveal a shortage (or surplus) of inspection staff — or help you respond to a boom in construction, such as one experienced in Blackley’s department. (Blackley’s additional tip for reporting on inspections: “Include travel time.”)

Be creative: In Wilmington, a 2006 facilities study said five fire stations were outdated and needed to be replaced. But that presented an opportunity: “We had our GIS analyst go in and look at what we would do if we could start from scratch,” said Blackley. “What we ended up doing was propose new locations for some of the stations.” As this was during the recession, closing obsolete stations that were poorly located, and building fewer new ones than planned, meant less budget pressure on the department – and possibly fewer firefighter jobs at risk.

Take ownership of your data: Fayetteville runs reports based on NFIRS data for every incident, using the Summary Outputting Tool, and shares the results with its personnel. A comprehensive monthly report encapsulates all other activities members perform, including training. Why? “If we’re going to ask you to put all that [data] in, then you should know what we’re doing with it [and] what decisions are being made off that data.” For his part, Hathcock has a real-time data dashboard on a 55-inch monitor in his office, auto-refreshing every 15 seconds with data from FIREHOUSE® Software. “You want to talk about taking ownership of data?” he asked. “There you go.”

You can go back and read part one, Getting Started, part two, Setting Expectations, and part three, Data Standards.

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